Exhibition at the AL Gallery in Budapest (2005)
The AL Gallery is presenting a selection of my works from the last four years, which I painted in Rome, Pécs and Budapest. The first painting in this selection is the small picture titled Back in Rome (2001), while the last one is the Analysis series, which I painted during the summer and autumn of this year. The two versions of La Bataille de Vezekény, Colour Whirl above Villa Adriana, the small Labyrinths and the Colour Möbius were made in the mean time (in 2003). The paintings I made over these four years employ a new use of colour, which first came to me in Rome in 2001, and a compositional structure that I had developed earlier.
The battle pictures are a follow-up to my series of compositions titled Velázquez’s Tomb, with their radiating spaces. In Rome I discovered sensory organs I can use to perceive and capture traces of energy left behind in real, physical spaces by events from the distant past. The essence of the paintings I created with this theme in mind is the way these traces of invisible events appear within representable, real-time space as a mirage or as an abstract formation. All of these paintings consist of two or more strikingly different surface-shaping techniques, painting attitudes and uses of colour.
There was no conscious planning involved in painting Back in Rome. At the time of its completion I was still unaware of its significance. It was only two years later, after I had finished several more paintings, that I realised this marked the beginning of a new use of colour.
That was the time when I first saw all the recently restored wall and ceiling frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. This experience moved me deeply, as it did many others. I agree with everyone who regards this restoration as one of the greatest fine art events of the end of the century. The elementary juxtapositions of colour Michelangelo used, which were now fully revealed once more, had an intoxicating effect on me. Nevertheless, it took me many months of research before I realised that this genius of painting had applied the very same cangiante colour system on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel as had first been described in the book by Cennino Cennini, Libro dell’arte, and which was most likely used by more or less all of the Italian painters. In its time this manual was distributed via handwritten copies and contained precise recipes for performing a range of painting tasks.
This cangiante use of colour appeared in the paintings I made in spring 2001 at Via Giulia (Accademia d’Ungheria) and continued on the larger canvases in my studios in Pécs and Budapest; I deliberately elaborated it further in the recent Analysis series.
Cangiante (a word of Arabic origin) means a play with colours or colour shifting. In brief, radiant colours are placed next to each other in a way that omits one or two shades or transitions from the continuous colour spectrum. The relationships between the cangiante proximities are pretty crude and there is no logic in their system; they are based instead on personal colour preferences, and they satisfy certain sensory needs, evoking sensations within the viewer.
I taught a course on this subject last year at the University of Pécs. One of the conclusions of my lectures was that this 600-year-old method reappears in the art of the twentieth century and is still present in the colour vision of numerous Italian painters. This is how, forty years after my first visit to Rome in 1962–63, by once again immersing myself among old and new Italian masterpieces, I managed to broaden the areas of painting I had long been practising.
It was a particularly significant moment for me when I was able to take “back” to Florence eleven large paintings I had made in recent years and have them exhibited there alongside works by my predecessors and contemporaries. There, my paintings had the chance to live together with these works and breathe the same air, albeit for a short time.
The work continues.
Ilona Keserü Ilona (wirtten on the train 15 November 2005)